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Report: NHL tests ‘shared sacrifice’ PR pitch to fans

This space has previously detailed some NHL owners' fondness for right-wing causes, now it transpires that the league office has hired a well-known Republican pollster who has advised conservatives from Pat Buchanan to George W. Bush to Stephen Harper to road-test its lockout message.

According to the fine folks at Deadspin, the NHL has retained the services of Frank Luntz, who brought such terms as "Contract with America", "climate change" and "death tax" into the U.S. political vernacular.

Now, he's apparently betting the words "shared sacrifice" will help the owners tilt the public relations battle over the current NHL lockout in their favour.

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Some of Luntz's focus group conclusions are more obvious than others - surprise! Gary Bettman doesn't test well - but according to Deadspin's report, the attendees broadly had a higher opinion of the owners than they did of the players at the end of the exercise.

Interesting that the league would go to such lengths to try and craft their spin.

Based on everything the NHL has said about the Phoenix Coyotes ownership situation over the past four years, I wouldn't have thought it needed any help in coming up with sophisms and Orwellian turns of phrase.

But if you're going to lay down a rhetorical fog, you might as well hire the guy whose name makes veins pop out on Democrats (Luntz is routinely disparaged as a truth-shy propagandist by the American left).

Luntz, who has a Ph.D in political science and has written a best-selling book called Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear, has long provided strategic advice to small-c conservatives in Australia, the U.K., and in Canada - in a 2006 speech to a conservative group called Civitas he advised Harper to speak as much as possible about hockey because it would be good for his image.

Far be it from us to drag Canada's hockey-fan-in-chief - whose tome on the history of the game should be published at some point soon - into the NHL lockout, but it's an interesting coincidence that Luntz instantly grasped the import of hockey as a national symbol in this country and has now pitched up as an adviser to the biggest hockey league in the world.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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